Parenting comes with its own challenges and often parents get super creative in handling those challenges in their own way.
We recently spoke to Neha Chauhan, A Waldorf Steiner Parent who works as a lead CMF designer at Mahindra & Mahindra automotive and a mother to her adorable son- Vedant. She is an extremely mindful individual and so it was very interesting to know her approach towards parenting. Gravitated towards growing her own food and permaculture, she truly believes that parenting evolves every day!
The conversation showed a different approach to solving these daily-parenting challenges. Let us get to know her approach better!
What does Parenting as a term mean to you?
Neha- “To me it would be how I guide my child, support him, so that when he grows up, he is able to manage himself efficiently. To get there, is a journey, with milestones, and every stage have a different milestone. These milestones are ever changing. And so parenting to me is about “becoming”, learning and changing. Hence, there’s no “one” definition that has remained constant through my parenting journey.”
What is your parenting style? How would you describe it?
Neha- “It is “becoming”. At this point in time what does my child need from me. To be able to understand him without considering the past or the future would be one of the the ways of describing it. From my experience, there is hardly anything we can do to make them behave in a certain way, or make them do certain thing. He is currently in the imitation stage. How do you become that model that is worthy of being imitated? That involves a lot of inner work. It is about observing why and how he is doing things and then correcting those things around him.
There is no way of saying what a child should be doing. For example, you cannot teach a child to walk. They walk when they have to walk. You cannot do anything to make them walk. You can just provide them with the necessary nutrients and support.
It is about balance, not too happy, not too sad, getting him in the middle every single time. Therefore, observation means, how to maintain that balance by watching him, watching his environment, watching ourselves while behaving with him and maintaining it. However, it is not easy to maintain it every day; there are days when you lose the balance as a parent. Now how would you react to it, the next day which hopefully is better than today and keep at it, because parenting is about “becoming”, and not about being perfect.
If he is about to hurt himself, I will definitely tell him in words no less, but most of the things you should let the child do. You definitely have to moderate everything but there are things that they are doing because they have to, it’s their growth process. Like climbing a tree and falling from it.
I would like to clarify this with a story to explain the way I handle things with Vedant. When he began his kindergarten, we had to make a lot of changes to his environment, moved house, and changed his play group. This for a child is a massive change. The repercussion of that was his aggression. He would pick up things and throw them randomly at people, even at other children. The teacher from the school called, and we had to be at the school with him, for 3 weeks. They did not call us to stop him from doing things but to observe what’s happening at the school and correlate what’s happening at the home and get the balance back. Overtime, we realized that the changes we made were a lot for him to absorb.
At this point, I was introduced to a whole new world of stories (by the school). So I used to narrate a story about things we wanted to correct but as a story. So every day before he went to sleep I would narrate a story by the candle light. These were stories I used to make up and not read. So he used to go to sleep with those stories and emotions that the character had gone through. It was not a one-day thing, it took weeks to get that behaviour corrected. Every time those hands would do something, we would say, “Oh the magic from your hands is going and we would warm the hands up, or if he did something wrong we would say “oh the hands did the bad thing”. So, we detached the action from the person. It made me realize that with a child, they will correct things only if it makes sense to them. Stories in that sense have been a revelation in my journey as a parent.
Every child is different; their temperaments are different so there is no one formula that works for all.”
What factors/aspects/values make your parenting system a system?
Neha- “Not giving too much access too soon. For example, not having too many toys, but having toys that can become many more things like blocks. Anytime he comes to me asking me for new toys, I tell him how our toys can become so many things. Toys for me have been a big concern since there are so many. Therefore, we get toys that are fixable. We also do not have a policy of media at home.”
What lead you to your Specific Style of Parenting?
Neha- “My whole journey is a revelation. When you talk to your child, take a deep breath and calm yourself down first. Especially when something big has happened, you need to be calm to be able to talk in the correct language and tone.
It is not a one-day revelation. As soon as you become a mother, you start looking at things differently. To conceive, I started meditation and that got me somewhere. Then I did not want him to get into the normal schooling system. This got me into the alternate education system, which ultimately led me to the nuances the school talks about, the whole inner journey that the school is capable of guiding you through and it has been an ongoing process.
His needs are changing as he grows and the school has been able to guide us through the whole journey. This has opened a completely new world for me. Plus reading has been my source of realization, and meditation led me to connect various dots of things that have happened.”
How early does parenting start?
Neha- “When I conceived Vedant. It was a difficult conception, which connected me to the higher power and made me realize the power of conviction. So for me it started from the time I wanted to have a child.
How did your Parenting style evolve/change as the child grew/grows and what are the things you feel you could have done better throughout this journey?
Neha -“I do regret over-buying. We bought things we did not have as children. I thought he would need them. However, Vedant would always go back to playing pans and pots. For example, when we started planting I did not buy toy gardening tools, but bought grown up tools and he use them like pro. Over buying, was something I would have not done had I known any better.
How is you Parenting style different from others and have you observed any difference between your son and other kids?
Neha- “To be fair, every parent is trying to do best, as per their understanding. My observation when I see other kids and see how most adults deal with them, in view it’s unfair. For example, adults expect their kids to share toys; why should they share? Do you share your car and possessions with others? Or how can you ask your kid to be friends with everyone? You yourself cannot do that.
There will be animosity, and friendships. Adults think because they are children they should be loving, giving, and they should not fight with anyone. But kids are exploring emotions and relationships while adults are determined to tell them what to do and what not to do.
Also when our children see how much time and efforts it takes to get something, they will never waste it. My effort now is that Vedant experiences how food is grown and how much effort it takes. Once he would have an experience of its value and he will not throw it away.
This goes for anything in your house, be it a plant, toy, or food, once they experience value, they will never throw it away that easily.”
What has been the most meaningful part of parenting for you?
Neha- “It is a series, not a single thing. However two most relevant at this point in time are, story telling, since the process also grounds me in the moments I spend with Vedant every night. And second, my Kriya Yoga practice which aids my inner and outer balance. I think without these two I would be off-balance myself”.
Did Your Own Upbringing Influence Your Parenting?
Neha- “Yes, forgotten connections were revealed when I had a baby. Like how daily Puja builds a daily rhythm, over and above its spiritual reason. Or why celebrating a festival is integral to a yearly rhythm. My mother and the entire household would prepare for day preceding festivals, likewise I am trying to build a culinary experience around festivals, somewhere bringing back memories from my own childhood.
Earlier I used to think, its boring to have same food around the same festival every year, but now I understand that the excitement and predicability that festive rhythmns brings, grounds memories that is unique to every family.
Growing up, these cross- connections have really helped me in this whole journey.”
What role does your husband play in parenting?
Neha- “We balance each other. Like in situations where I am losing my cool, my partner is calm and visa versa.
The moment we try and bring equality in parenting, we start with mathematics, who does how much. Equal parenting is balance of the masculine & the feminine. So when I say equal, I mean each parent is involved in their own individual way because what I can bring to Vedant, my husband can’t and what he brings, I will never be able to fulfil. Involvement is more important than equations.
What is your opinion on Conscious Parenting?
Neha- “Conscious as the word means internalization to me, so it cannot be something you think about before doing. As a parent, it means lots of inner work to realize, evolve and become a reflex. Conscious parenting is this practice which becomes a reflex and then an automatic response to situations.”
Would you recommend any tips/watch outs for other parents who would like to adopt a similar parenting style?
Neha- “Reading a diverse set of subjects from Stiener to spirituality, really helped me. Reading makes you know and meditation builds connections between that diversity. Needless to say kriya yoga practice grounds the inner being and I can’t stress its importance in my journey.
As for reading parenting books, I vouch for ‘Simplicity Parenting’ and ‘You are your child’s first teacher’ to any parent.”
Knowing and sharing these different experiences and approaches helps other fellow parents to relate and understand that parenting is not always perfect and it cannot be perfect. It is about being the best version of yourself for the kids. It is about learning and growing with your kids! It is about being imperfectly perfect!